Coleraine crushed nine-man Ballymena United with two late goals at the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds.
Winger Stephen Carson and substitute Stephen Dooley sent United reeling after the visitors had two players sent off in a lively derby.
Sky Blues’ defender Chris Ramsey was red carded for a crunching first half challenge on Coleraine striker Rory Patterson and then referee Alan Black dismissed former Bannsiders’ midfielder Noel Anderson for simulation following a challenge from home defender Kyle McVey.
Coleraine, the league’s top scorers, surged into a second minute lead. Keeper Davy O’Hare easily dealt with Gary Haveron’s free kick and released the ball for Patterson who swung a speedy delivery for Darren Boyce who beat dithering United keeper Sean O’Neill on the edge of the box and then steered a low shot into the net.
United lost left back Lee Colligan to injury, stretchered off after a 50-50 challenge with defender Howard Beverland and it got worse for Roy Walker’s team as the red mist came down on Ramsey 60 seconds later.
United’s persistence was finally rewarded as super-sub David Cushley beat O’Hare from 16 yards, converting Anderson’s pin-point flick on the hour.
United’s luck completely ran out in the 77th minute. Patterson eased a pass to Stephen Carson when he found his route to goal blocked and the winger stepped inside before directing a right foot ground shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Substitute Dooley picked up a Patterson pass to easily beat O’Neill in the 87th minute.
The game was briefly interrupted in injury-time as two missiles were thrown at home keeper O’Hare from the United enclosure.
COLERAINE: O’Hare, Beverland (Gibson 76), Hegarty, McVey, Mukendi, Boyce, Harkin, McCallion, Tommons (Dooley 67) Carson, Patteron. Subs. McLaughlin, Tolan, Canning.
BALLYMENA UNITED: O’Neill, Smith, Colligan (Cushley 30), Haveron, Alb. Watson, Ramsey, Stewart, Carson (McNeill 80), Surgenor, Kelbie (McCaughern 85), Anderson. Subs. Nelson (GK), Taggart.
Referee: Alan Black (Antrim).